September 10, 2013

Paying It Forward

Grace Chirumanzu, a wife, mother of two, and sports journalist from Zimbabwe, grew up loving sports—playing volleyball, cricket, and soccer while in high school. During the 2012 State Department’s espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program Grace was again able to combine her profession and passion; eventually using the experience to create pathways for other women to enter the field of sports media in her country.

The program—which pairs women sports leaders around the world with American executives in the sports industry to serve as mentors— has a simple mission: to engage, inspire, and empower a new global network of female leaders in sports.

For three weeks, American women executives work side-by-side with emerging female leaders in sports to share valuable business and leadership skills. The mentors also help to construct strategic action plans in an effort to create sports opportunities for underserved women and girls when they return home to their countries.

Grace was matched with ESPN’s Senior Coordinating Producer Tina Thornton and takes pride in knowing her relationship with Tina will be a lasting one. “I have developed a strong passion to empower women,” says Grace of her mentorship experience with Tina. “[Tina] stood up for me and helped me with everything I needed during the course of the program. Once one gets someone who is there for her, she develops that love to be there for the next woman.”

“In most countries like mine, women are marginalized… and because of that we have not been able to realize our potential. Once they are empowered psychologically, so many of their talents and skills begin to show. Because of [Tina’s] sisterly love, I feel I owe it to her to do the same for other sisters in my country and in Africa at large.”

Today, Grace is paying it forward.

With the help of a follow-on grant funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Grace mentors young Zimbabwean women and encourages them to practice sports journalism on a website she developed. Her initiative will also seek to drive the women to play the sports they wish to cover, in an effort to effectively write about them.

“I have currently selected six journalism students whom I am mentoring with the aim of empowering more women into sports journalism in my country,” says Grace. “I have approached some sports officials for help and we are currently playing cricket under the guidance of national team assistant coach Stephen Mangongo. The whole idea about journalists playing [sports] is to understand the sport better; we will be doing this more with many other sports.”

Grace Chirumanzu is part of a new global network of women leaders in sports who are engaging, inspiring, and empowering other women and girls through sports. Women and girls who play sports are not only more likely to gain the skills they need to succeed in life, but also create stronger, more stable communities.